McLaughlin fights back for Aussie GP win

Scott McLaughlin's Supercars season has lift-off after a dogged first-up win at the Australian Grand Prix.

Starting from pole, McLaughlin had control of Friday's race, before Jamie Whincup's garage team stole the lead for the seven-time champ with a superior pit stop at the Melbourne street circuit.

The Kiwi fought back with a sharp passing move on lap 17 to re-claim the lead and a first victory of the new year.

The manoeuvre won't erase the 24-year-old's painful memories from last season, when he lost the championship to Whincup in the final moments of the last race of the year.

But it does show he will contend strongly in the 2018 title race, moving from fifth to third overall with the win.

"I'm stoked," he said, sweating after contending with track temperatures above 40 degrees.

"It was an awesome battle, me and Jamie. We always battle hard and fair."

Whincup finished second, ahead of McLaughlin's DJR Team Penske teammate Fabian Coulthard in third.

McLaughlin's win denied a hat-trick of season-opening wins for the new Commodore ZB and the Red Bull Holden Racing Team after Shane van Gisbergen swept the Adelaide 500.

Despite Whincup's hiccup, he's in fine shape to have a terrific meet at Albert Park.

The seven-time champion began the season with a DNF in Adelaide and arrived in Melbourne sitting an unprecedented 18th in the championship.

With two pole positions to come, Whincup is favourite to claim the Larry Perkins trophy for most points earned at the meet - and should surge further in the standings from his improved position of 11th.

Chaz Mostert pulled off the highlight of the race, overtaking Scott Pye after a series of moves around the back of the street circuit to finish fifth.

Michael Caruso was the field's biggest mover, leaping 10 places to finish 14th.

Nissan's Simona De Silvestro came off second best in a shunt with first-season talent Jack Le Brocq, forced out of the race after three laps.

The Supercars race twice on Saturday, either side of Formula One qualifying, with a final race on early Sunday afternoon.

SUPERCARS RACE-THREE RESULTS:

1. Scott McLaughlin (Ford)

2. Jamie Whincup (Holden)

3. Fabian Coulthard (Ford)

4. Shane Van Gisbergen (Holden)

5. Chaz Mostert (Ford)

6. Scott Pye (Holden)